(recipe by Claudia Fleming)
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)
*Thanks to some helpful hints from other Daring Bakers, I placed my egg whites in a glass covered with paper towel and a rubber band. I let them sit at room temp. overnight. This helps to draw out some moisture which will help you achieve the 'feet' on your cookies.*
1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.
Fleming’s recipe calls for almond flour, but you can grind the nuts yourself if you are feeling ambitious or can’t get a hold of almond flour. (It is available at many online sources, however.) If you do grind the nuts yourself, be sure to add at least a cup of the powdered sugar with the nuts before grinding. This keeps them from turning into almond butter. Grind the nuts as fine as possible in your food processor. Maida Heatter suggests grinding nuts for at least 60 seconds, or longer than you think you need. They need to be extremely fine—powdery, in fact, like flour. If using almonds, try and hunt down blanched or skinned almonds. This helps with the texture and color. You might also consider toasting your nuts ahead of time and rubbing off the skins in some clean toweling.
If you’d like to use a different nut besides almonds, you are welcome to substitute them. Hazelnuts or pecans are good substitutes, but feel free to experiment with others. Our own Helen, of Tartlette fame, suggests that if you do want to use a different nut other than almonds, to have half almond, half other nut, as almonds are drier than other nuts and help again with that all-important texture. If you have a nut allergy, you can make nutless meringue cookies sandwiched with a filling, but it would be great if you could attempt to obtain the size and shape of standard macaroons.
Flavor variations are infinite. In Fleming’s original recipe, she calls for adding vanilla bean seeds to the granulated sugar, and folds in the zest of a lemon to make lemon macaroons. You can add cocoa powder, instant coffee or espresso powder, green tea powder, fruit zests. You can tint the batter (Helen again suggests using powdered food coloring to keep from adding too much moisture to the batter). The same goes for fillings—anything goes. Ganache, buttercream, jam, caramel, custard.
An important note about coloring and flavoring: liquid food coloring can be used, but be cautious! Use 1-3 drops maximum, otherwise, according to Helen, it increases the moisture in the batter, and that can ruin the macaroons. She suggests one trick: mix the liquid color with the almonds and powdered sugar and to let that air dry for a couple of hours. This reduced the moisture a little bit. If you use more than 3 drops of food coloring, you’re going to have a disaster. That means using fruit puree is out. One way to flavor the macaroons is to use 1-2 teaspoons of citrus zest, 1-2 teaspoons of matcha (green tea powder), or 1-2 teaspoons of herbs or freeze-dried fruit powders. If you want savory macaroons, you can try 1 teaspoon of saffron or other savory dry flavorings. If you want to use powdered color, Helen says that up to 1 tablespoon is a safe amount.